The Montana Department of Justice's Office of Consumer Protection says a recent data breach of Equifax, one of the financial industry's three top credit reporting agencies, has put the personal information of over 143,000 million Americans, and 368,000 Montanans at risk.

(Please note that the various websites referenced in this story can be found below)

Mark Mattioli, Chief of Montana's Office of Consumer Protection, said the reason why Equifax suffered its data breach are not as important as what Montanans must now do to ensure that their own personal information is protected.

"Over a third of Montanans, most of them adults, have been affected by this very significant data breach," Mattioli said. "The Federal Trade Commission has sent out information to all the states, linking to an Equifax website, and they are offering a free credit monitoring and identity theft protection service for a period of one year that will enable people to monitor their credit and to receive alerts if there are any problems."

Mattioli said that Montanans must take the issue of protecting their personal information into their own hands, and not just depend on technology.

"Technology has become such an integral part of our lives, that I think we've come to trust it too much," he said. "Since our data is at risk at all times, the best thing we can do to protect ourselves is to proactively check our bank statements, check our credit card usage and check our credit reports, and I'd recommend that people do that weekly. The problem is just so pervasive that you can't depend on the banks and the credit card companies, or even the government, to prevent what you can do to prevent it yourself."

Mattioli said he urges people to visit the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) website learn more about next steps following this announcement.  That link  can be found here.

The Equifax press release announcing the breach can be read by visiting here.

Montana consumers who would like more information on how to place a freeze on their credit file can visit the Montana Office of Consumer Protection website.


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